An apology and a thank you.
A big fat juicy thank you to my dear friend Yuka (first my older sister’s friend after doing a high-school exchange in rural New Zealand) for allowing me to stay.
I believe very few people can truly understand how happy I am to be here. Really, you may think me melodramatic or this an exaggeration, but I almost feel as if I’ve fled prison! My soul is rolling on the grass and my heart is breathing in mouthful after mouthful of fresh air.
Before beginning my apology, I’d like to say that no one forced me to sign up for the JET programme. As continuously reiterated to participants, each JET experience is different. This is because, as expected, the lifestyle and mannerisms of each student, school, Japanese teacher(s), contracting organisation and geographical location will differ – in both good and bad ways. Without getting into specifics, my experience happened to be extremely unpleasant (put politely). However, as you may have seen from my previous posts, I tried my best to make the most of it – my life. I made many friends of all ages and partook in various activities every-single-day. Again, no one forced me to stay, I could have left at any moment. However, I felt a strong responsibility to my students, colleagues and myself to see things through to the end. Even through the difficulties and even through the heartache. And though I made some unforgettable memories with my dear students and friends, I still finished my contract with a heart full of sadness. Sadness at mistreatment, of lack of apology and of prejudice. I felt disheartened because I felt I had so much to give. For goodness sakes, I was an ENGLISH major. English was my passion. English is my passion. Still, I was underutilised and unappreciated. I remember thinking to myself that if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this experience, it’s to never ever be unproductive.
As for my apology, again, I would like to first thank Yuka. For in the mere three days that I have lived in Osaka, I have felt more good energy and positive vibes than I had for a year and four months. I had so many back-to-back negative experiences that I’d convinced myself I hated Japan. I couldn’t understand how others were having a pleasant time here. Weren’t they being stared at everywhere they weren’t? Wasn’t the doctor refusing to treat them because he or she didn’t speak English? Weren’t they turned away every time they went to class? Weren’t they frowned upon for wearing a singlet, riding a bike, having their hair out?
Osaka is a wonderful city. I mean, I have only experienced a small part of it but what I have seen emits great spirits. People are always out and about. They have blonde, purple and blue hair. They sport tattoos and piercings alongside formal and traditional attire. Mothers ride their bicycles in floral dresses as their loose hair dances out back and their front seated toddler watches in amusement. Business men carry stylish briefcases and smell like heaven and young girls are so damn fashionable they put me to shame.
I would like to apologise because I based my perception on a small minority of Japan. Even though I knew it couldn’t all be like this, I still couldn’t really believe it. Osaka or city-life, whatever it is, has changed my awareness. I am so glad I could/can experience this side of Japan. I’ve decided I could easily live in this city, forever.